Today in the inexplicable

Muck Rack Daily

Today in the inexplicable
April 2nd, 2019 View in browser
Muck Rack Daily

It’s the age-old PR debate: Should I follow up? And, if so, how soon and how many times? Alexandria Haslam talked to some true PR pros (and a few journalists) to get their best advice on following up. Read her new post on the Muck Rack Blog to find out how they answered the question, Should you follow up with a journalist?


This is a gut-punch

Unfortunately, we start today off with the news that The Cleveland Plain Dealer has laid off a third of its unionized newsroom staff. Tom Feran reports on the layoffs for The Plain Dealer, and, as Rachel Dissell tweets, “@PDNewsGuild member Tom Feran caps off a 37–year career by coming in (after his layoff) to write the story about it.” Adds Austin Kleon, “My father-in-law writes his own lay-off obit as his final piece after 36 years at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Like an effing pro.” Holly Hays says, “This is a gut-punch: ‘Many of our members volunteered for layoffs to save the job of another, which speaks volumes about the respect those in our union have for each other.’”

Feran quotes Ginger Christ, Plain Dealer News Guild unit chair, who notes, “The damage isn’t just the loss of jobs. It’s the loss of information vital to the life of the city.” As Adam Goldman reminds us, “Local journalism is the heart of American journalism.” (Scroll down in today’s newsletter for just one example of why local journalism matters.) Twenty years ago, The Plain Dealer’s unionized staff of journalists numbered 340. It will soon be reduced to 33.

This is infuriating

And now, for “An inside look at an editing process,” Damon Darlin links to Irin Carmon’s New York magazine piece, which wonders, What Was the Washington Post Afraid Of? On Twitter, Carmon explains that she “Decided it was worth writing about the story that didn’t happen at the Washington Post because both journalism and #metoo should be about accountability and transparency. Grateful to @nymag (incl. Adam Moss in his last weeks as editor!) for publishing it.”

Joe Brown captures the reactions to this piece and the work Carmon is doing with his tweet: “Wow this is infuriating. @irin thank you for writing this and for being a kickass reporter who shines light into dark places.” Meanwhile, Maureen Ryan thinks, “This is a terrible look for @washingtonpost. @irin & @AmyJBrittain weren’t allowed to publish damning (& well-reported) allegations against powerful CBS executive Fager a year ago. The concerted pushback & pressures described here are very common--& powerful.” Tweets Contessa Brewer, “This. Is. Journalism. Forget ‘fake news’. Think ‘Legal Squeeze!’”


Meanwhile, today is Equal Pay Day, and as The NewsGuild-CWA points out, “At news organizations across the country, women and people of color are paid less than their coworkers doing the same job. In fact, women in the U.S. must work until April 2, 2019, to catch up to men’s earnings for 2018. For women of color, it takes even longer.” Tweets Justin Myers, “News organizations demand transparency from government and business. So why won’t publishers act transparently when it comes to pay for women and people of color in their own organizations? We demand #Transparency and #PayEquity. #EqualPayDay Join us.”

The Help-a-Russian-Spy Policy

Rachael Bade and Tom Hamburger of The Washington Post report on one of the big stories that came out yesterday: Tricia Newbold, a manager in the Personnel Security Office of the White House, told a House committee that 25 security clearance denials were reversed during Trump administration (31,000+ shares). “Also known as the Help-a-Russian-Spy Policy,” tweets Kara Swisher. Newbold, an 18-year veteran of the security clearance process, said Congress is “her ‘last hope’ for addressing what she considers improper conduct that has left the nation’s secrets exposed,” they write. And although this story broke yesterday, it’s worth pointing out, as Martin Swant does, “FYI: This is not an April Fool’s joke.”

The House Oversight Committee said “two current senior White House officials” are included in that group of 25, but it didn’t identify them. We do have a few clues, though. As Matea Gold tweets, “White House officials whose security clearances are being scrutinized by the House Oversight Committee include the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner and national security adviser John Bolton, according to the panel’s letter.”

Just for fun, “Imagine the holy hell the GOP would’ve raised if the Obama administration had overruled decisions to deny security clearance to officials who were deemed susceptible to blackmail or foreign influence,” tweets Jim Roberts.

Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman report on the story for The New York Times (with the rather mild headline, Whistleblower Tells Congress of Irregularities in White House Security Clearances), and Kurt Andersen says, “In any previous Administration, this would’ve been one of the major scandals—bigger, for instance, than the Clintons’ Travelgate, which was investigated by an independent counsel. For this freak it probably won’t make his top 20 scandals.”

Maybe just as shocking as Newbold’s accusations is the fact that she then did the unexpected: She returned to work (27,000+ shares). Katie Rogers writes about that in The New York Times, highlighting on Twitter, “‘I am extremely nervous for how people at work will treat me,’ Tricia Newbold said this morning. She returned to work without incident, which means the White House is grappling with a rare on-the-record account of wrongdoing from a current employee.”

Cool cool cool

Moving on, Craig Newman is feeling totally fine about the latest exclusive from Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast, who tells us the Department of Homeland Security has disbanded a group of intelligence analysts who focused on domestic terrorism. Tom Watson files this one under, “Today in the inexplicable.” But hey, “What Nazis?” as Jeff Stein tweets.

Worst librarian ever

A new investigation by Mark Bergen of Bloomberg finds YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Letting Toxic Videos Run Rampant. Staff tell Bergen that proposals to change recommendations and curb conspiracies were sacrificed for “engagement.” If this story somehow feels a little familiar, that’s because, as Chris Parker tweets, “They were warned by own concerned employees about the risks, but they persisted because they wanted to make more money. It could be the Sackler family, or tobacco companies or the makers of the Pinto, but instead it’s @Google.” Adds Mark Milian, “YouTube’s chief has compared the site to a library, which would make sense if you imagine a librarian who never shows up, except to occasionally recommend Mein Kampf or softcore porn to children.”

Meanwhile, YouTube is placing sweeping new restrictions on Tommy Robinson’s channel — but it’s not banning the far-right activist. Mark Di Stefano has the details at BuzzFeed News, tweeting, “Scoop: In a startling move, YouTube makes Tommy Robinson’s channel undiscoverable after consulting third-party academics and experts.”

Di Stefano explains that the move comes after demands from senior MPs from both of Britain’s main political parties that YouTube’s parent company Google follow the examples of Facebook and Twitter, which have banned the anti-Islam campaigner from their platforms. Tweets Ryan Broderick, “YouTube has quarantined Tommy Robinson. His new videos won't have view counts, suggested videos, likes or comments, or appear in search. So now when you search his name all you get is... oh, uh, his numerous appearances on British TV and radio…” (Refer back to that “I hate the internet” gif again.)

Some kick-ass reporting

Reminding us of the importance of local journalism, Kevin Rector, Talia Richman, Liz Bowie and Meredith Cohn of The Baltimore Sun have been digging into sales of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s children’s books, and the latest is that Kaiser Permanente, Associated Black Charities paid Baltimore Mayor Pugh almost $200K for her ‘Healthy Holly’ books. They report that the health provider paid her over $100,000 while it was seeking a lucrative contract to provide health benefits to city employees. As Matt Pearce tweets, “This is some kick-ass reporting.”

Also at The Sun, Ian Duncan is now reporting that Baltimore Mayor Pugh will take a leave of absence in midst of ‘Healthy Holly’ book controversy. A statement from her office attributed the leave to Pugh’s “deteriorating” health. Tweets Jay Hancock, “Health policy tweeps if you haven't seen, I refer you to a hell of a Baltimore scandal involving mayor getting big payments from KP & University of Maryland Medical Center. Now she's stepping aside. @baltimoresun is only reason we know about any of it.”

Around the U.S.

Here’s some alarming news. Rachel Leingang of the Arizona Republic is reporting that the University of Arizona will charge 2 students over protest of Border Patrol event on campus. Jay Caspian Kang thinks, “This should be the biggest story of the day, imho. Two students charged at University of Arizona for protesting. As part of the reason, U and A officials cite ‘free speech.’ Not everything is Orwellian but this is actually Orwellian.”

About this next one, Miriam Elder says, “Whew, absolutely incredible work from @Bernstein on the real story behind that student Nazi salute photo that went viral, and what happened to the town after.” She’s referring to Joseph Bernstein’s story for BuzzFeed News on the Baraboo Nazi prom photo — and the city’s response. The dek should intrigue you: “The intentions behind the Nazi salute photograph seen around the world were hardly as sinister as they first appeared. But in Trump and Twitter’s America, as one small Midwestern town discovered, image is everything.”

In a new ProPublica project, Paul Kiel and Hannah Fresques take a look at Where in the U.S. You Are Most Likely to Be Audited by the IRS, and the results might surprise you. Tweets Katie Zavadski, “a poor, rural, mostly black county in the Mississippi Delta seems like an unlikely place for the highest IRS audit rate in America. and yet…” That’s right, a rural county in the Mississippi Delta known for its catfish farms is the most heavily audited county in the country.

Epic troll

In case you missed this one yesterday: As we all know, no one goes to New York for the restaurants or culture, but it looks like things might be turning around for the city. A.O. Scott links to some “nice skewer work here” by Lucas Peterson at the Los Angeles Times, whose new piece, For cramped New York, an expanding dining scene, explores how New Yorkers are finally getting some options besides street-vendor hot dogs. Cathleen Decker calls it an “Epic @latimes troll for the, oh, 5 million or so stories in which the @nytimes treated the west coast as some exotic and peculiar locale (and happy April Fool’s Day).”

Tuesday round-up


Question of the Day

Yesterday, we asked: What was the first daily comic strip published in the U.S.? Bonus points for naming the newspaper that published it.

Answer: Richard Outcault’s strip “The Yellow Kid” is often cited as the first true comic strip. He first drew the comic for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, but William Randolph Hearst poached Outcault and brought him over to his New York Journal (later renamed The New York American), where the multi-paneled strip featured speech balloons for the first time. That was followed by a lot of back-and-forth rivalry between the papers, et voilà: Yellow journalism was born.

Congrats to…Dan Rosenbaum, first to tweet “The Yellow Kid, and” Roberta Rosenberg, who was first to earn those coveted bonus points.

Your question of the day for today is…“The Big Bang Theory” just became the longest running multi-camera sitcom, surpassing the 275-episode record set by what show?

As always, click here to tweet your answer to @MuckRack.


Featured Journalist: Jessica Fisher

Today’s featured journalist is Jessica Fisher, a New York City-based writer who covers board games, video games, roleplaying games and geek culture. Jess admits that, with a background in cinematography, welding and bartending, she’s a strange mix of talents. She started out writing reviews for an iOS apps website, picked up work freelancing for Geek & Sundry, and graduated on to running Gameosity, a news and reviews site for board games. Read more about Jess and check out some of her work here.

Don’t forget - if you change your job in journalism or move to a different news organization, be sure to email us (hello [at] muckrack [dot] com) so we can reflect your new title. News job changes only, please! Thanks!

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